To Santa, or not to Santa—that was the question. We were new parents raised with Santa-rich holidays, and that first Christmas with our first baby, that decision sat before us, ours to make. But how? The Christian literature on the subject was plentiful and opinionated: those for Santa argued against Christmases devoid of magic and wonder; those against claimed that inviting Santa to the party was akin to lying to our child. And so we sat in the middle, pondering (between diaper changes) how this momentous decision would affect our daughter into adulthood and whether she would, one day, discuss it with a therapist.
I overthought it, of course. It wouldn’t be a Rosenburg decision if I hadn’t.
It seemed to us that there must be a third option. Beneath the commercial Santa of our youths there was a saint of legend—a man imbued with the ability to defy time and space and celebrated long before Black Friday was a thing. Beneath the legend, there was a historical man—but who was he? After lots of research and conversations with friends, we landed on “not to Santa”—but to Saint Nicholas!
And so on December 6, Saint Nicholas Day, the shoes in our house mysteriously fill with chocolate coins, and we curl up before breakfast with a book about Saint Nick. Right there at the start of Advent, we discuss who Nicholas was and what’s up with Santa. Then we spend the rest of Advent talking about Jesus.
Ned Bustard’s new release, Saint Nicholas the Giftgiver, captures that whole spectrum of Nicholas’s story, from faithful Christian bishop to man of myth and legend. In this sweet rhymed book, Bustard—illustrator of Church History ABCs and Every Moment Holy—shares Santa’s origin story with the youngest readers and shows how the historical man became “Good Saint Nick.” This is a both/and book: we can tell our children the story of Saint Nicholas and we can celebrate Christmas in a way that holds Jesus at the center. Bustard’s linocut illustrations make this book feel both historical and magical. In his “Note From the Author,” Bustard writes:
“Both history and legend portray for us a man moved to action by his faith. The apostle John wrote that we love because God—the greatest Giftgiver—first loved us. And it was God’s generous love that filled Nicholas with gratitude, prompting him to respond with love and generosity to others.”
This is the heart of Nicholas’s story—not the presents, the traditions, or the stockings, but his faithful obedience to the true giftgiver. Saint Nicholas the Giftgiver gets this just right.
Saint Nicholas the Giftgiver
Ned Bustard (2021)
Disclosure: I did receive a copy of this book for review, but I was not obligated to review it or compensated for my review in any way. I share this book with you because I love it, not because I was paid to do so.